What I learned on Maternity Leave
Becoming a mom is exciting and everyone has a bunch of advice to dish out, however,
never enough on the pertinent topics like preparing for maternity leave or how to make sure you are getting everything you need from your companies maternity leave policy. I think it's important to cover some ground on the not so fun topics like maternity leave.
Last week I decided to add a forum to my blog and this is particularly a really exciting thing because I more than sharing my own experiences, I want to know about other moms and dads experiences through parenthood. The before and after. The good, the bad, ugly and messy because that sums up “awesome millennial parenthood” for me.
Let’s get into it.
The first reality about maternity leave is that it is not a vacation! Don't promise anything to anyone before you give birth, especially not your work. I had four months as is the law in South Africa. At first, I thought "that's plenty of time", in the end, I wished it was longer. It felt unreal that I needed to leave my teeney-weeney baby to go to work. While I had the four months, I did the best I could with what I had and it was great.
Here is a list of lessons I learned during my maternity leave:
Rest and recover – whatever it takes Like I said, it is not a vacation. Depending on how your birth goes, this experience can vary. For me, this meant I tried to sleep as much as possible and rely heavily on the tribe around me to help care for our newborn. I also had a c-section and as much as mentally I felt like superwoman, my body said the opposite in the first weeks. The key is to focus on the positive - healthy baby and a healthy mama. The secret for me was SLEEP! Simple. I would wake up to get clean, eat, breastfeed, bond with the baby and then sleep. Shout out to the dads that hold it down during this time!
The World Can Wait I checked out of the world completely. Just the week before I was still at the office, doing my handover and concerned about what the next four months without my presence at work would mean. After birth, the thought did not even cross my mind. I checked out and this was a great segue into a digital detox. No emails and no social media. Maternity leave months go by so quickly, I am glad that I was mindful to live in the moment and I have no regrets.
Your body might never be the same again This is a contentious one and it depends on who you ask but the reality is, some women get back their “old body” and others are happy with “whatever comes next”. I was certainly the part of the latter group, with one exception. Having a c-section means that the bounce-back can be challenging and it was for me. I didn’t mind the gains elsewhere but the belly flop gain was hard to wrap my brain around. It’s now a year and half postpartum and I can happily report that it with some effort to exercise, floppy flop is going away. I think it is important to relish in the amazing work your body just went through to produce an entire human being. You can worry about fitness later, give yourself a grace period to just enjoy being a super mom.
Hormonal imbalance is a thing This one caught me off-guard, I felt a bit strange for a while. Those postpartum hormones are no joke. Much of the hormonal imbalance that develops during postpartum is indeed due to estrogen dominance. Consult with your OG/GYN or your midwife if you feel you need help. When you’re pregnant, your placenta produces a high level of progesterone, but once you’ve given birth and the placenta is gone, there is an immediate drop in a woman’s progesterone level. This is what’s commonly referred to as “baby blues” — which was experienced by many other postnatal women. It will take some time until you start feeling yourself again.
Eat Plain and simple. Eat, nourish your body. You need this to recover and if you are breastfeeding, you need to get all the vitamins to transfer to your baby. I still had “pregnancy appetite” in the first few weeks, but shortly after it was gone. I had to make a concerted effort to remind myself to eat. If you go through the same, just try and get a good amount of healthy fats and that is rich in calcium and protein. Don’t skip breakfast – oats for example is a great choice.
I hope sharing my lessons will aid you on your journey if you are a mom-to-be, or if you are a mom and felt similar, you now know that you were not alone in feeling the way you felt, or doing the things you did. Even superwomen need sleep and good nourishment too.
I also hope that you participate in the forum, get a discussion started, or simply share an experience.